Australian director Jennifer Kent’s debut film takes age an old idea of a child’s fear of the Bogeyman and turns it into one of the most engagingly fresh horror movies in recent years. The extremity here is that not only does the fear disturb the child but lays its claws into the parents as well.
After the tragic death of her husband, Amelia struggles to raise her six-year-old son Samuel when he becomes terrified of imaginary demons. In order to calm him down one night, Amelia finds a children’s book called The Babadook. After reading it to Samuel, Amelia quickly realizes her son’s demons are not imaginary as The Babadook soon begins to terrify them both.
Samuel, played by Noah Wiseman, commands the attention on screen as he goes from painfully annoying to eerily vulnerable within seconds. As an audience, you sometimes feel the fear expressed on the mother’s face. As good as Wiseman is however, this is Essie Davis’s film. Her character undergoes such manic ingredients of emotion; from empathetic to chaotic to demented to placid with a pinch of humor squeezed in to make the insanity of her performance exhaustingly powerful. Numerous movies in the past deal with the idea of the child as the focal point of horror. The Babadook evolves this idea, very much like The Shining, when the narrative is taken away from Samuel and focuses on Amelia.
The Babadook itself is a vicious and disturbing popup book found by Amelia that threatens to kill her son; triggering a course of events that will surely make you jump from your seat. The sinister looking demon, colored all in black with hunchback and black hat will no doubt in the future become a figure of Halloween parties and The Babadook book given to horror movie buffs at Christmas.
Although it goes over familiar horror movie territory, The Babadook is fresh, original and genuinely terrifying. The performance of Essie Davis deserves any accolade she receives. A movie that, in the future, is destined to become cult classic.